Vladislav Malast is not only one of our students, but also has a quite unconventional profession – he tries to bring art as close as possible to ordinary people from the position of a gallery teacher, most recently in collaboration with The Bridge. If you go to the Bratislava City Gallery, perhaps for one of these special evenings with an English accompaniment, you can meet him there. Read what Vladislav’s work looks like and find out why the English language is important to his profession.
You work at the Bratislava City Gallery as a gallery educator, tell us more about your job.
I am part of the education department, where I and my colleagues prepare and implement programme for visitors. We address different visitor groups – the general public, families with children and school groups. We strive to ensure that they can spend a quality-filled time in the gallery. We tailor each programme to the visitor, so sometimes it may be more intellectual or educational, other times experiential, entertaining or creative. We often focus on conveying the experience through active perception and self-realization in the studio. However, my work is also intertwined with other subjects and is often the result of interesting collaborations. The Bridge is one such partner. I am very much looking forward to this connection.
We will get to the cooperation. ☺ Do you use English actively in your work?
I can’t imagine my work without English, it has become a very natural part of my functioning. It is important, for example, to be “in the know” about what other galleries, including the world’s, are doing in gallery pedagogy, and in this way to look for different inspirations. Also, the study materials for exhibitions and the topics they offer are not always limited to the Slovak environment and the Slovak language. My work with foreign language visitors is not very frequent yet. Sometimes foreign visitors, diplomatic delegations or foreign language schools come. However, at GMB we are already taking steps to make the foreign language community in Bratislava get to know the Bratislava City Gallery as a place where it is possible to experience programmes, including guided tours in English. One such step was the launch of the regular Let’s Talk Art!
Let´s Talk Art! is regularly prepared in cooperation with The Bridge. What does such an evening spent in the Bratislava City Gallery look like?
We will spend this time together walking among the artworks, which will give us space for interesting topics. As a lecturer, I aim to arouse and maintain interest. I try to talk mainly about things that can also be seen directly in the works or present them in the most understandable way. A certain degree of empathy is also important to me, because not everyone is set to the same pace, some people are comfortable with a slower pace, others with a faster pace, and you have to respond to that. I also respond to what kind of language is most appropriate for the group, whether more serious or more light-hearted – the degree of one or the other will also come out directly in that interaction.
Can visitors actively participate in the interpretation?
I like to give space for a two-way dialogue, but never in a forced way, because not everyone likes to be actively involved and feels more comfortable in a passive position. In one case, we even did a short activity right in the exhibition at the end. Such elements can sometimes be enlivening, but so far this is not the rule for this format.
How did the idea of doing something like the Let’s Talk Art project come about?
The current management and the entire staff of the Bratislava City Gallery care very much about being a barrier-free and inclusive cultural institution. We have perceived and still perceive the potential to work with foreign language audiences more intensely. But it is not necessarily only foreigners living in Bratislava, because the English language is a living part of the local population as well. Perhaps everyone who is learning English is looking for opportunities where they can use it. Therefore, when communicating about this programme, we remind you that it is also suitable for those who are learning English or looking for communication in English and, of course, who enjoy the arts.
How has studying English influenced your personal or professional life?
I think the rewards for mastering the language have been some of my foreign friendships, but also the pleasant feelings of having spent time with someone from another country in the gallery in a valuable way. In all my work in gallery education so far (apart from GMB, I worked for a long time at the SNG before that) I have had many such encounters with foreign visitors. And I have always come away very enriched, especially on the human side. Because when a visitor feels good, he often expresses himself and gives you something nice of himself as well.
You are currently attending a language course at The Bridge language school. How did you hear about it and why did you choose to take an English course here?
My studies at the language school are linked to the partnership that has been established between The Bridge and the GMB at the leadership level of both institutions. I very much appreciate this initiative and have been happy to respond to it as positively and openly as possible. The partnership enables me to improve my own language skills and, as a result, to deliver a better quality of service that benefits other students at The Bridge. The learners can be enriched with arts experiences while being given the opportunity to communicate in English in an extra-curricular setting. However, Let’s Talk Art is also a program open to “non-course participants” so there is room to meet non-English speakers, perhaps even native speakers.
What specific course do you attend at The Bridge?
I am attending a B2 course with tutor Mary Clarke in the form of online lessons.
Was there anything you were worried about before you started your studies?
At the very beginning I was worried because I didn’t know enough to imagine it. I’ve only had English in the form of lessons in high school(!), and that was quite a long time ago. Since then, my English has been life itself – books, films, the internet, later internet radio, and especially work, where, although not intensively, there have been and still are fairly regular opportunities to use English both passively when preparing programmes and actively when working with a visitor. However, the very first lesson was a great experience for me, and after that all.
What happened in the first lesson?
In the first class, Mary Clarke and I talked about who was doing what. I told her about my English and my work in the gallery. The whole meeting was extremely enjoyable and I was just looking forward to the class and not dreading it.
How many years have you been learning English?
Four years in high school, then a sort of hiatus, and then after college in a gallery environment, a slow but sure improvement in the form of non-intensive use. That period has lasted until now, for about 20 years. Now, however, there is a “renaissance” underway, as I have been taking classes at The Bridge since last year.
Next evening Let’s talk Art! takes place on May 25th What specific exhibition or exposition can we look forward to?
On that day we will take a virtual walk around old Bratislava. The Gallery of the City of Bratislava has prepared a big exhibition called Look, Presporok! It presents graphic letters, photographs and also several paintings with views of the city from the 16th to the 19th century. The exhibition is a story about what and how in our city most attracted the attention of artists, but also about how its appearance changed over the centuries. And because it is built so that the viewer “walks” from room to room through different parts of the city, we will take such a walk together as well. I am looking forward to this meeting myself and cordially invite all those who are interested.
If you enjoy the evenings of Let’s talk Art! are interesting, you can find out more about them on the GMB website and if you are looking for a way to improve your high school English or any other English, we would be delighted if you could email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +421 948 104 916.